When my students first learn they will be reading a novel written all in French, they at first feel very overwhelmed. Luckily, I’ve been talking this book up since they very first day of school in August, so even though they’re nervous, they are excited to read Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux.
Each year I teach this novel, I know I’ve done a better job than the year before. This year, my focus is to improve the way I teach the vocabulary. As a guide, I’m using the strategy proposed by my school’s Literacies team called Vocabulary’s CODE which comes from the book Core Six. CODE stands for: C- Connect, O-Organize, D-Deep Process, E-Exercise
CONNECT– For the first chapter, I chose 30 words from the text. The students defined the words on their own or with a partner. Then we discussed them as a class, looking at each word individually. Were there any we had already learned from other units? What are the cognates? False cognates? What part of speech are the words? Is there an image that represents the word? We practiced saying each aloud and in French.
ORGANIZE– This is an important step that in the past I have skipped. I wanted to make sure my students really knew these words before we started reading. It can be overwhelming to dive into a book, but if you have the stability in the words, it’s much more manageable. I divided the class into groups of 3 and gave them each 30 note cards. I gave my directions in French, and they were to divide the 30 words and cards among the three group members- thus each member would have 10 words to copy from the list. When they had all the words copied, they would spread them all out and determine at least 4 categories to group the words into. They could refer to their list on their iPads to check the definition of each word. Then, they named the categories and attached them to a poster. This way the students had to think about each word and how it might relate to the others while discussing and agreeing with their groups.
Deep Process: As we read, we discuss how we see the words in context. We talk about how the words may change based on tense or gender, how it is being used to drive the plot, or what symbolism the word carries for the story. With some words like feuilleter, we imagine it in our minds or I demonstrate it for the class. We also use it in new contexts at the end of the book when the students create pages for an alphabet book. They illustrate the words and create an original sentence that Gaston Leroux may use in an edit of the book.
Exercise: As we continue the book, the words from earlier chapters are often used again and again. I have made quizlet sets online for some of the word lists, and sometimes we play games as a class, or the students practice on their own. We also play Tuez la Tortue with the words.
As evidenced by the first vocabulary quiz, this strategy seems to be working. They all did well on the assessment (matching words to pictures, matching words to English definitions, determining which word doesn’t belong based on meaning), and have been understanding the words in the context of the story. I have high expectations for the level of comprehension my students will have this year with Fantôme!